After weeks and months of debating, Congress passed a measure on Monday to keep our country from defaulting on its debts. What was already an important night became even more memorable when Rep. Gabrielle Giffords returned to the House floor to cast her first vote since surviving an assassination attempt in January.
The debt-ceiling debate was a grim affair, with hand-wringing and partisan bickering reminiscent of election season. I tired of listening to the whining and accusations. So for the most part, I tuned it out and waited for the deadline to near, anxious to see what the decision would be.
The morning after the vote, I combed through news articles, and found many focusing on Giffords and her return to the floor. What struck me the most about those articles was how they used the word "unity," the countless references to her return wiping away partisanship, even if it was for the briefest of moments, and the overall claim that her return set a more amicable mood to the vote.
Though I respect Giffords and think that her return was a wonderful, exciting thing, I can't help but think those claims are incorrect.
Politicians set the tone for that vote long before Monday. The fact that everyone, Republicans and Democrats alike, both stood to welcome her and wish her well at the very same time does not change the fact that they behaved like children and refused to compromise just days before.
It was about genuine, human reactions to a situation, and had nothing to do with partisanship. It was about putting aside attitudes and egos, and responding in a reasonable, empathetic way. We've watched our congressmen and congresswomen do this before. When the very shootings that injured Giffords took place in Arizona, both sides stood together to grieve for the injured, mourn for those who lost their lives and hope for better days.
Unfortunately, as history has shown us, this "pull together" attitude does not last, and is rarely responsible for getting anything accomplished. Within days the pundits will tell us about the next argument between the parties, with both sides digging in their heels, forgetting the messages of "unity."
I'm not naive, and realize that the political process isn't an easy one. With the sudden drop in the stock market undercutting the already complicated road to economic recovery, I know we have tough times ahead of us.
So my main hope is that our politicians can take some of that empathy that allows them to confront disaster, and use it to cooperate and make decisions that will help us avoid it.
(Ana Yanni is a copy editor for The Review. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org)